Gimmicks Don’t Sell Books

book gimmick









By Josh Zajdman, Media Connect Publicist

In 1927, a French publisher offered the incomparable Georges Simenon money to spend 3 days and 3 nights in a glass cage… writing his next novel. Simenon accepted the challenge but, shockingly, it never took place. Yet, there are scores of people who claim to have seen it happen.

In 1996, Dennis Rodman declared that he was bisexual, put on a wig and wedding dress and claimed that he was going to get married…to himself. All of this was done in an effort to promote his autobiography, Bad As I Wanna Be.

In 2009, Alain de Botton became Heathrow Airport’s first, and last, Writer-in-Residence. Every morning, de Botton would leave his airport hotel and go through airport security. Upon arriving at his desk, he would turn on his computer and get to the day’s work with everything he typed being projected behind him. When he wasn’t writing, he was taking pictures and interviewing travelers. A best-selling book was the result.

While we at Media Connect are keen to think outside the box and try new and even unorthodox approaches to book publicity, we don’t believe in any of these gimmicks. We do believe in doing our jobs well and starting each campaign with a fresh set of eyes and keeping our creative batteries at full charge.

A campaign can be as simple as a series of radio interviews or a full-blown tour and media blitz. One facet that we’ve continued to encourage clients to consider and constantly expand our familiarity with: speaking engagements.

Noted poet, essayist and translator J. Chester Johnson has been going up and down the Eastern Seaboard since July. He’s been speaking to churches, poetry groups and other organizations in support of his two 2017 publications: Now and Then: Selected Longer Poems and Auden, the Psalms, and Me. We’ve worked on getting diverse types of events for Chester, making sure his current books and backlist are being carried in the communities and securing regional media opportunities.

As his East coast leg comes to an end, we are looking to California and the UK for Chester’s next set of stops. Along the way, we continually rejigger our list of potential venues, how we are promoting events and whether lectures, panels or conversations with another author are most appropriate.

Speaking engagements are great ways to get an author in front of an engaged and varied audience. Instead of taking place at a library or bookstore, they can take place at museums, houses of worship, even a bar. When authors can speak for a longer period of time about their process, subject matter in their books, research or any other number of things, an audience is more likely to walk away with a greater understanding of the author and the book they hold in their hand.

In this day and age, we have to consider book publicity creatively. We aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we are trying to figure out where and how we can add another spoke. There’s too much noise and too many competing titles.

For us to make some noise, being proactive and thinking outside the box are just the first two steps in crafting a successful and engaging campaign without any of the gimmicks I wrote about above. There’s always something interesting afoot in the book world. We don’t need a cage or an airport to get the word out.

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